Reportage wedding photography – what lens to use?

Every wedding consists of different parts – preparation, ceremony, bridal shoot with group shots, reception. During all these parts there is a time for balanced portraits with beautiful bokeh and good light, but also there is a time when the only goal is to capture emotions, real life, real interactions, decisive moments and from my experience a wider lens is a much better choice than telephoto.

Wide lenses, in general, give photographers an ability to jump into the action, be inside the scene and capture its essence. Tele lenses on the other hand always give separation from subjects, so the viewer watches the action from a distance which is not suitable for reportage but works perfectly for classical portraits, detail shots, group shots and other wedding photos when we want to observe, not becoming a part of the action.

Wide lenses distort the image, distort your models, so we need to be careful using them shooting people – their bodies can be disproportionate stretched, making, for example, big heads and small bodies, or twice longer arms and tiny legs. There is a way to use these distortions even shooting portraits, but we need to be careful watching for the main parts of the body that we focus on, we can put our models closer to the centre or pose them in a way that fits the distortion.

There are different kinds of wide lenses in terms of focal length, price and the amount of light they can deliver. For wedding photography the best option is 35mm – classical focal distance used for years by the most significant documentary photographers in the history of photography, and the reason is simple – it is wide enough to show the environment, wide enough to create artistic distortions leaving some options to shoot people not making them a caricature as happens with wider lenses – 14, 16, 24 and 28.

My recommendation is to get the fastest 35mm you can, in my case, it’s 35mm 1.4 Zeiss which in combination with Sony A9 allows me to shoot without any flash during almost all wedding receptions even with the lowest amount of light when my eyes see less than my camera.